Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Editing News: T.E. Grau Named New Fiction Editor For Strange Aeons Magazine

"Rise of Cthulhu" by Tim Vigil
Sorry to go all third person douchey in the title. I played with several different iterations, but finally just went with the facts, as I couldn't wait for propriety to strike before sharing this hugely exciting news. Truly exciting for me, obviously, but also hopefully for you as well, as I'll endeavor to cull the darkest shadows, scrape the walls of the deepest crypts, and coax the shapes that uncoil in the indecipherable void for the best speculative fiction being produced today.

Actually, what the Strange Aeons brass and I have been discussing in terms of the sort of fiction that will define that section of the magazine could better be termed as "Strange" (which  flows a bit better than "Aeony").  Thomas Ligotti - in a recent interview with Ann & Jeff VanderMeer's Weird Fiction Review - described his writing as being best defined as "uncanny," which differs slightly from your garden variety Weird lit.  This is how I view the fiction that will be requested, and ultimately accepted, for publication in Strange Aeons.  We want something totally unique, edgy, genre-defying.  Something horrific, unsettling, eminently mind bending.  It can be loud.  It can be quiet.  It can be both, or neither.  We desire something uniquely Strange, which often means we won't know what we want until we see it.  That's both terrifying and thrilling as an editor.  As a writer, this is understandably frustrating, as specifics and genre/tonal guidelines are often helpful.  Regardless, that's the queer path that Strange Aeons will be taking in terms of fiction, hoping to crack open some stunning new vistas into both the Beyond and the Within.

But back to my regularly scheduled giddiness...  As regular readers of The Cosmicomicon can attest, I've been a gooey, tittering fanboy of Strange Aeons since I first stumbled across issue #3 last year, as it hearkens back to those gloriously violent, saucy comic and pulp fantasy mags of the 1970's, before the rise of irony and the submission of the fantastic in an effort to be cool.  Bollocks to all that.  Strange Aeons is a tongue kiss with the bizarre, a roared salute to doom amid a room full of reserved hipsters trying to keep their enthusiasm in check.  It's a printed celebration of everything that is horror, fantasy, and sci-fi, which has transmuted into one gorgeous monster populating the cosmos with a multitude of young.  In short, it's one kick ass mag, and based on the bold plans of the bossfolk upstairs, it's only getting warmed up.  Luckily, I hopped on the caboose just as it sped from the station.

In honor of the occasion, I recently sat down with Strange Aeons Executive Editor K.L. Young - and by "sat down," I mean I e-mailed him questions from a sitting position, which he gracious answered from what I assume was a similar posture - to get a little background on the magazine, discuss the present, and get a glimpse of the future of the magazine as it prepares to take that next step toward crushing your skull.  Enjoy!
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Hi, Kelly. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with The Cosmicomicon. To start thing off, give us a little bit of background on Strange Aeons and how it came to be.

Sure. Strange Aeons started off as Planet Lovecraft about five years ago. I kept finding all of these amazing artists dabbling online with Cosmic Horror and Lovecraftian themes, and they just weren’t getting any notice. So I started researching what it would take to publish these comics, and as I got further into it, I realized I could start publishing a magazine like the ones I dug when I was a kid – Eerie, Creepy, Heavy Metal and Epic.

After two issues, I had signed a deal with Enemi Entertainment and Haven Distro to get the book into comic stores all over the US, but there just weren’t enough sales to justify the cost of the printing.

Enter Rick Tillman, who was a filmmaker friend and fan of Planet Lovecraft. We sat down and discussed a complete re-launch of the book with a new title and new look, incorporating all the things we really liked about Heavy Metal and Epic Magazines from the Eighties, including fiction, reviews, game supplements and exclusive freebies. His input really cemented the “Strange Aeons look”. The magazine debuted at the Emerald City Comic Con in 2010, and we knew we had something special when we sold a couple copies to excited people in the elevator as we were on our way to the convention floor.

What is your earliest brush with Weird/Lovecraftian/Speculative (WLS) fiction? How did this influence you in your creative endeavors?

Life-long horror fan, here. My older brother would break me out of grade school to grab Slurpees (with the awesome plastic Marvel Heroes cups!) and watch horror matinees in Seattle. I read ‘Salem’s Lot in fifth grade and started devouring all the horror fiction I could find. This was 1979, ’80. I lived in a small town in the Pacific Northwest by then, and you had to hit up the used bookstores to find new authors. When I was thirteen, I found a battered copy of a Lovecraft collection called “Cry Horror!”, and from there it was all over. All of the short stories I was writing - horrible King rip-offs – became horrible Lovecraft rip-offs.

Following on the above, why did you choose to work in the arena WLS fiction, which seems to be such a niche market?

Ahh… I don’t think you ever really “choose” to work in the W/L/S arena… or any arena, when it comes down to it. Creative people gravitate towards the things they like, starting with blatant imitations and then growing and (hopefully) finding their own voice. Once I found out that there were other people interested in reading and writing and discussing this kind of fiction, I just naturally ended up here. I enjoy the company.

What is your take on the present state of the genre?

Good or bad, it’s stronger than ever. I see a lot of stuff that I really dig, and a lot of stuff that I don’t. The important part is “a lot of stuff”. But as I get older, I find I’m more excited about the things that have a subtle but conscious nod to Lovecraft rather than those that blatantly ape or mimic his work.

How would you describe Strange Aeons, and what is your stated or implied goal with the magazine?

Others have described it as “The illegitimate love child of a hot tryst between Heavy Metal and Weird Tales”, and I think that’s kind of cool.  Originally, my goal was just to get these amazing artists and writers out to a larger audience. But now that we’re winning awards and publishing original material, I think we’ve decided to take things a little more seriously. We’re looking at getting the mag into more comic stores and bookstores (while they’re still around), and pursuing our digital options, while staying true to the fact that we’re one of the few publishers left that’s willing to print in full-size, magazine format.

Tell me a little bit about Anno Ktulu.

I am ridiculously excited about Anno Ktulu, a four-part story arc that runs throughout the 2012 issues of Strange Aeons. Think about what would happen if the superheroes you’ve grown up with – Superman, Batman, etc – had been published by Warren Comics instead of DC, and they populated the Warren world?

What if, instead of super villains, the heroes of this world evolved to fight the supernatural horrors of vampires, werewolves, and zombies? And then what if they had to face the ultimate alien evil in the form of Lovecraft’s Old Ones? How would Batman deal with the awakening of Cthulhu? How COULD he?

The story is all mine, the scripting is by Vincent Ferrante of Witch Hunter fame, and the artwork is Ben “1314” Hansen, who’s done some pretty cool work for a lot of companies, and a couple great covers for Strange Aeons.

Besides the four-part story arc, there’s a very cool Anno Ktulu “Zero Issue” coming out near the end of March, and this thing is awesome. Four short comics featuring the heroes of this horror-world, illustrated by Tim Sparvero, Ben “1314” Hansen, Nick “The Hat” Gucker, and John Fulton. And it’s oversized, like the old Marvel Comics Super Specials. I have no idea how we’re going to ship these things, but they look SO cool.
Anno Ktulu - Coming Soon
What is your submission policy for fiction, art, comics, etc.? What sort of creative material are you looking for from contributors?

We’ve always had an “Invitation Only” policy for fiction, mostly because we’re just really, really picky with the fiction we print. We’re a quarterly ‘zine, and there’s generally only one piece of fiction per issue. That’s only four pieces per year, so we really want to make them stand out. So far, I think we’ve succeeded. I’m sure our new Fiction Editor can fill in the details as far as that goes.

For comics, we’re looking for completed stories, five to fifteen pages in length. We don’t pair up an artist with a writer or anything like that – there’s just too much involved in that kind of stuff for a small-press like us.

We’re looking for all kinds of material – horror, dark sci-fi and fantasy, black humor, whatever you’ve got, as long as it’s interesting and well done. We took the name Strange Aeons as a nod to our Cosmic Horror beginnings, but also so that we could branch out into more mainstream horror and sci-fi. So, it doesn’t HAVE to be Lovecraftian to make it into the mag.

What is the publishing timetable for Strange Aeons? Meaning, when should fans and readers look for new issues of the magazine? Where is it available?

We’re extremely proud of the fact that we’re a small press quarterly that comes out with a regular schedule! We follow the seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, which gives us a little leeway if we want to release an issue to coincide with a convention or festival we’re attending.

Your best bet is to buy the magazine online at www.strange-aeons.com, or at www.arkhambazaar.com. There are a few comic stores across the country that carry it – and if you want YOUR comic store to carry it, let them know that we have retailer discounts!

How has Strange Aeons evolved from its inception, and what do you see for it in the future?

It’s definitely a more predictable beast. I think we were finding our sea legs with the first couple of issues as far as design and content went – and I’m very proud of those issues – but with the second year we really tightened our design down, and as we start our third year, I’m very excited about the content we have coming up.

We’re also gearing up to get the magazine into digital formats for eReaders and the like, and getting a more interactive website up.

Who would you rather face in a spirited, shirtless arm wrestling match? Present day Jean Claude Van Damme or "TJ Hooker"-era William Shatner?

Uh… present day William Shatner.  I saw Van Damme recently and he still looks like he can kick ass. The Shat… not so much. And if he pulls anything, I’ll give him the Kirkie.


If you like Strange Aeons, and I sure as shite know that you do, go make it official by declaring so publicly here.

Then order, if you already haven't, Issue #8 here, which features incredible cover art by none other than Tim Vigil, encasing 56 pages of gorgeous black & white and color comics by Lee Davis, Eric York, Rob Corless, Phil McClorey, and Vincent Ferrante; short fiction by the award-winning Peter Watts, accompanied by illustrations from hunky teen heartthrob and soup enthusiast Nick "The Hat" Gucker; yet another limited edition 'Lost Lovecraft Film' mini movie poster replica; book reviews; "Forbidden Lore"; news of the Weird-o-Verse in the "Unearthed" section; and so much more.  Also included in this issue is another exclusive rule-set for "Strange Aeons", the eldritch miniature game.

After that, look for the Beatlesque-sounding Strange Aeons Issue #9 to hit newsstands and the back of your eyeballs in May 2012, which will feature my debut as Fiction Editor. Whether it's a resounding success or a monumental trainwreck, I'm pretty sure you don't want to miss it.

6 comments:

  1. Congratulations Ted, great news for both you and Strange Aeons! I expect very good things to come from this unholy union. ;-)

    I had the pleasure of being featured in Planet Lovecraft #3 and meeting K.L. at MythosCon last year- both nice feathers in my cap.

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  2. Thank you, Master Carrick! I only hope I can pull my own weight. The magazine has been so stellar and on-point, that I now have rather large clogs to fill.

    I really wish I could have made it to MythosCon last year. I've heard that several great and monstrous things were hatched down in the Valley of the Sun that weekend.

    Oh, and I'd inflict great bodily harm on random, smiling strangers in exchange for a copy of Planet Lovecraft #3. I'm sure that sucker is priceless.

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  3. Strange Aeons definitely takes me back. I can remember in '74 standing in the Heidelberg PX, transfixed by the rack of weird comics beckoning. At 6 trying to understand all the insanity of Mutually Assured Destruction, the pulp horror genre helped give much needed perspective.

    Hey - I wanted to aks you if you caught any of the "Leap Day William" episode of 30 Rock. LOTS of Lovecraft references in that one, including a Cthulhulian shock-ending. I was really confused by the tie-in though. Any ideas?

    Thanks!!

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  4. Wild Bill!

    No, I didn't see those 30 Rock episodes, as I don't watch the show. But thanks for the heads up, my man!

    /scuttles off to youtube

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